Female labor force participation and female mortality in Wisconsin 1974-1978

Soc Sci Med. 1985;21(6):655-65. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(85)90205-9.


The following research question is addressed in the study: what effect will the entrance of women into the labor force have on female mortality rates for all causes of death combined as well as specific causes relating to occupational stress, behavioral factors and physical hazards associated with occupation? This question is examined through comparisons of age, marital status and occupation-specific death rates for all causes of death combined and for selected causes of death. Death certificates provided by the Wisconsin Bureau of Health Statistics for the years 1974-1978 and population data provided by the 1976 Survey of Income and Education were used to construct death rates. The death rates of the white civilian female population of Wisconsin 16-64 years of age were examined using exploratory data analysis techniques (schematic plots and median polish) and standard errors. In general, the death rates of women in the labor force are substantially lower than those of housewives. These results may indicate that the role of housewife exposes women to health hazards. In addition, the results of this study may suggest some selectivity of healthy women into the labor force or a protective effect of labor force participation. In a limited number of instances, labor force participants' mortality rates exceed those of housewives. In the 60-64 year old population, white-collar workers, specifically, sales workers, managers and professionals, experience significantly higher death rates than housewives. In addition, specific groups of labor force participants experience significantly higher death rates than housewives for accidental deaths (i.e. laborers 16-44 and 45-54), deaths due to heart disease (i.e. laborers 45-54 and sales workers 60-64) and deaths due to malignant neoplasms (i.e. white-collar workers 60-64 years of age). The possibility that these instances indicate the direction of future mortality trends should be considered.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Coronary Disease / mortality
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Wisconsin